The ongoing series in which local performers interpret personal letters written by culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities. Performances are free and open to the general public. Ordinarily, readings are live. Due to COVID-19, current programming is podcast, listen HERE.
The 2021 Season:
March 25: The Letters of Edgar Degas
A podcast of personal letters from Edgar Degas surrounding his 4-month stay in Reconstruction-era New Orleans.
Join us for an intimate listen to thoughts and emotions experienced by Edgar Degas as he visits his mother’s family in the Crescent City as it strives to heal post-antebellum wounds after the American Civil War. Business, money, family, property ownership, class, race, and privilege, all play important roles in this compelling story.
In late 1872, Degas accompanied his brother René to New Orleans where he observed his paternal family’s business managing the post-Civil War cotton trade. The painting used to illustrate this online event is the oft cited depiction of his time here. It captures a moment during the decline of his uncle Michel Musson’s business, the Cotton Office. Which went bankrupt shortly thereafter.
Upon his return to France early in 1873, Edgar learned that René had also bankrupted their own father’s banking business.
It was about this time and occasioned by the family’s multiple financial misfortunes that Degas turned his trade as a serious painter into a successful livelihood.
December 31, New Years Eve Listen to the podcast HERE
In an unprecedented shift from an intended, March production, we offer a remote interview with two professional actors, George Saucier and Colin Miller in Lafayette, Louisiana. Formatted within ten questions, this last 2020 offering threads excerpts from a two-hour conversation between George and Colin about being an actor, theatre as an art form, ruminations about Tennessee Williams, the Southern Gothic genre, and the arc of one’s career.
The conversation took place in George’s Lafayette studio. Nancy Sharon Collins recorded in Sonic Canvas Studio. Sonic Canvas’s sound quality differs from that captured in George’s studio, and, you will hear the difference. While discussing early influences, both actors refer to the Children’s Community School. George later refers to this as CCS. “The script” is mentioned several times. This is the 2018 Letters Read script that was to be restaged with Acting Up in March, 2020, before the pandemic changed everything.
Robert, “Bob” Stuart was born in 1923, just three years after women in this country were allowed to vote. Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana. He served in the Navy during WWII, was honorably discharged in May, 1946, and lived a long and productive life as a civil servant in New Orleans. This during a time in the middle of the 20th century when identifying, or being identified as gay—or queer—could cause a dishonorable discharge from the military, strip you of civilian jobs, deny you housing, and ruin your reputation forever.
This event reflects upon the arc of Stuart’s life, the times through which he lived, and offers a tiny glimpse into correspondence from men who were his close and intimate friends, and one woman.
Letters and documents for this recording are from the Robert W. Stuart Papers, The Historic New Orleans Collection. Gift of Frank Perez, Acc. No. 2018.0225.
Blanchard, “Skip” Ward was a gay activist in rural Louisiana during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and into the beginning of the 21st century. His home was in Pineville across the river from Alexandria.
Skip became increasingly involved in LGBTQIA activism in the early 1980s when he first came out. Or, as he would have phrased it, “came up front” about his sexuality. He co-founded the Unitarian/Universalist Church’s Gay Caucus. He also created Louisiana’s first publication tailored to its gay population, called Le Beau Monde. Ward held some form of membership with nearly every Louisiana LGBTQIA organization from the 1970s onward and was particularly active in the Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC), a political activist organization, and the Radical (or Raedical) Faeries, a national organization for rural-based gender and sexual non-conforming spiritualists.
The emcee for this event is Shannon Flaherty, co-artistic director of Goat in the Road Productions (GRP). Frank Perez, president of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana reads as the voice of Northern Louisiana conservative clergy. Two other ensemble GRP members are part of this reading. Owen Ever reads as the voice of Skip Ward and Dylan Hunter is the audio engineer on this production. Original music is composed and performed by Dylan as well.
Ward’s letters provide a rare glimpse into rural gay life and the political struggles of the 1980s and 1990s. —excerpted from the caption to “Letter to A Friend Just Coming Up Front”, in the online exhibit, Women and Gender.
The 14th Letters Read and first produced remotely and podcast.
Originally scheduled for March 26 at Frenchman Art & Books in New Orleans, this event was preempted by the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak. Instead, listen to Dylan Hunter reading as the voice of our subject. Rebecca Hollingsworth is Anne. Both self-recorded in the safety of their own home. Our emcee is Frank Perez, President of LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana. Frank was recorded through a telephone conversation with Dylan. Dylan is also our audio engineer for this event. Music is written and performed by Rob Hudak.
This event provides a rare glimpse into the personal life of an important Louisiana political activist. It begins with the 1967 correspondence from Anne, an intimate friend. The reading weaves in annual Valentine’s letters beginning in 1999 that, as recently as this year, were still mailed to 200 of his dearest friends.
Since the 1970s, Butler has been a significant force in the Louisiana civil rights movement. In 1984, 1986, and 1991 he strategically advocated for changing gay-rights ordinances. Butler was a co-founder of LGPAC (the Louisiana chapter of Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus) and has served on boards including the Lesbian and Gay Community Center, PFLAG, and LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana.
Thanks go Antenna, our fiscal agent. To David Zalkind, owner, Frenchman Art & Book, and to Dancing Grounds from whom we were borrowing chairs. The live audio engineer was to be Steve Chyzyk, Sonic Canvas Studio. Thanks also go to Bill Hagler, John Magill, Robert Feiseler, and Courtney Sharp for providing background and context. Thank you Letters Read narrative and storytelling advisors Ted Cotton and Cassie Pruyn.
For one night only, professional actors read and interpreted contemporary and historic communications surrounding the exhibit The Baroness de Pontalba & the Rise of Jackson Square at the Louisiana State Museum’s Cabildo.
This narrative weaves the legacy of Don Andrés Almonester (1728–1798), his formidable daughter, Micaela, the Baroness de Pontalba (1795–1874), and specific members of her descendent family into an exploration of our notions of property and property ownership.
Hearn is often credited with popularizing New Orleans in the late 1800’s through articles in Scribner’s, Harper’s Weekly, Cosmopolitan, The Century Magazine, and Harper’s Bazaar, describing the mystique and intrigue of the city to the rest of the world. In 1886, Hearn summered in Grande Isle, Louisiana, to research a new book he was writing. It would be published as Chita: A Memory of Last Island. The novella is based on the last barrier island of L’Ile Dernicre which was completely destroyed in the 1856 hurricane.
During his stay at Krantz’s Hotel, Hearn wrote often to Page Baker. Baker was the editor of the Times-Democrat and steadfast champion of Hearn’s work. During this correspondence, Hearn’s message and tone turned from his typical, flowery, post-Victorian style to dark and accusing. Why?
In this second reading of Hearn’s letters from Grande Isle, we examine possible reasons for his letter’s unusual subject matter and uncharacteristic language. Join us as we explore a writer’s environment and discover possible motives.
ABC@PM, Crescent City Books, and Letters Read present a second open mic night for book nerds. CODEX is a conversation about the physicality and context of interacting with and using books. Attendees are encouraged to bring any book they’d like sharing! Loads of conversations about the interaction with and what is a book are a goal. NOTE: In the interest of time, the first 10 nerds who arrive and sign-in to share their book, or books, will be given 10 minutes to do so in this session.
Questions? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The historic fight for civil rights in New Orleans is more complicated than most movements in the other 50 United States. Prior to Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era, free people of color here could legally own property. Free persons of color could even own slaves.
Another anomaly, albeit post-Jim Crow, is how and when our libraries changed from a separate but equal policy to total desegregation. Without fanfare, our libraries desegregated almost a decade prior to most of the rest of the deep South. An amazing accomplishment for a small, deeply southern town rooted in antebellum sensibilities and unique, international roots.
Join us for the story of desegregation in New Orleans libraries ca. 1954. To read more about desegregation in the Jim Crow era South, go here.